A Conor McGregor fan said watching the MMA fighter's triumph over José Aldo in Las Vegas inspired him to shift more than six stone (38kg) in just one year and set him off on a new career path as a personal trainer.
Thomas Nolan (23) weighed more than 22 stone (139kg) in December 2015 when he flew to the US to watch McGregor's 13-second knock-out fight at the MGM Grand. The Dublin city native said the fighter's achievement inspired him to change his life and transform his body over the course of 12 months.
"I went on a holiday to Las Vegas with my brother to see the Conor McGregor fight against Aldo," said Thomas, speaking to Independent.ie.
"The journey there was a nightmare. I was so anxious, I felt like I was so close to having a panic attack the whole time.
"When I was in Las Vegas I had to go into a shop for obese people to find something to fit me. That was so demoralising.
"The night I saw McGregor fight changed my life. This guy, who is from just down the road from me, could inspire this whole stadium of people and Irish people across the world. It was amazing.
"He could do something like this and I was sitting in my bedroom every day, watching series after series on Netflix, eating just for the sake of eating. I knew something had to give," Thomas said.
Thomas, who is from Townsend Street, has lived with depression since his teenage years and said at his heaviest, he was is a very dark place, even contemplating taking his own life.
"Since I was a teenager, I've gone through periods of depression. I was on tablets to help me cope with it but I was just in a really bad place last year.
"I felt so alienated from my friends. I was a 21-year-old guy and I was almost 22 stone. They were all making something of themselves and I just felt like I wasn't really living.
"I was having regular panic attacks and to be honest there was a point when bad thoughts were beginning to enter my head. I began to question what was the point of continuing on," he said.
After returning home from the US, Thomas was determined to turn his life around but said he did not have the confidence to join a busy gym. A year later, the Dubliner is now a qualified personal trainer working in Flyefit, a chain of gyms in the capital.
"I was too afraid to join a big, busy gym. I was so embarrassed about my size. I joined a really quiet gym where there was nobody really there and just began to tap away at it.
"At the time I wasn't working so I had the time to go to the gym five or six time a week.
"Before the summer I signed up to do a Personal Training course on Dorset Street. It was nerve wracking to build myself up to going for it, because I obviously have not reached my goal just yet and I was afraid everyone would be really fit with big muscles and I'd be the opposite. I needn't have worried though, every one was so supportive.
"I've started working in Flyefit gym as a PT and I think it can be a helpful thing for people who are in the position I was in to have a personal trainer who has been through it.
"There's an emotional side of eating that I feel a lot of PTs don't understand. They haven't been through it and don't know how much of a crutch food can be," he said.
The personal trainer had the opportunity to meet with Conor McGregor late last year, and said he was glad to have the chance to tell his hero how he was inspired.
"My cousin actually knows Conor McGregor so I was lucky enough that he was able to set up a meeting with him," he said.
"I went along and met him. I told him how much that fight and how much he's achieved has inspired me. It was a great thing to be able to meet someone who has had such a positive impact on your life."
It's not just the reflection in the mirror that has changed for Thomas, as the 23-year-old said his confidence and self-worth has soared. Since joining the gym, he has not had a panic attack and is no longer on medication for his depression, which he says is hard to believe at times.
"I haven't had a panic attack since I began training, which is incredible. I was having them so often. I've really never felt better and for the first time ever I feel alive. I feel like I'm making the most of my life.
"I've lost 85lb (38kg) so far, and my goal would be about 100lb (45kg). The thing is, I know I'll get there, it's just a matter of when," he said.
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